VJMP Reads: Edward Bernays’s Propaganda III

This reading carries on from here.

The third chapter of Edward Bernays’s Propaganda is called ‘The New Propagandists’. Here, Bernays gets to the task of who it is that molds public opinion. “Who are the men who, without us realising it, give us our ideas?”

Bernays admits openly that these molders of public opinion decide for us who we admire and who we despise, and what we think about all manner of political issues. They decide our fashions, our speech, and even what jokes we feel like we’re allowed to make. They decide the shape of everything in our societies – but who are they?

These people include all of the top politicians, all of the leaders of the biggest industries, all of the leaders of the largest cultural organisations, the editors of the largest newspapers and magazines, the heads of the various industry groups, the chancellors of the most prominent universities and the main religious figures. Even so, most of these people, in their turn, get their ideas from elsewhere.

In some cases, it’s clear who the wirepullers are. In most cases, it isn’t. But these people control the destinies of millions. The degree to which a small number of people influence a large number of public figures is generally not appreciated. This number will, however, always be small on account of the great expense involved in manipulating the machinery of propaganda to form public opinion.

This has given rise to the new (in 1928) profession of professional propagandist, which has been euphemised as “public relations counsel”. This role is necessary because all governments, no matter what their type, depend on the acquiescence of the people. Bernays here gives us the maxim “Government is only government by virtue of public acquiescence.” Even commercial enterprises need public approval to succeed.

The propagandist is not simply an advertiser. Although he might use letters to the editor, radio, lectures, magazines and more, his work does not duplicate that of the advertiser. His first business is to make sure that his client’s product is something that the public can be brought to accept. The propagandist’s next job is to analyse the public, and how to approach the leaders of the various groups within it.

Bernays contends that, in the age of mass media, corporations found it necessary to give the appearance of conforming to the public’s sense of decency and honesty. As a result, and much like governments, corporations found propagandists necessary in order to get anything done.

The ideal of the propagandist’s profession is making the client understand what the public wants, and making the public understand the objectives of the client. Propagandising can therein be likened to a form of diplomacy. Bernays labours at length the point that the propagandist does not work to hoodwink the public, and lists the ethical considerations of the profession.


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VJMP Reads: Edward Bernays’s Propaganda II

This reading carries on from here.

The second chapter of Propaganda is called ‘The New Propaganda’. Here, Bernays elucidates some of the differences between the original approach to propaganda that arose with the advent of mass media, and the “new” approach that was developed after the application of mass psychology techniques to making propaganda more effective.

The industrial revolution has made kings much less powerful than they once were, relative to the masses. It spread economic power, and, with that, political power. The old democrats used to believe that it was possible to educate everyone up to the level where they could participate in rulership – in reality, the average person falls well short of what is required.

Propaganda fills this gap, serving as the means by which the minority can still rule the majority. “Propaganda is the executive arm of the invisible Government.” The education of the common man, instead of teaching him to think freely, only conditioned him to become receptive to propaganda. Now his mind is receptive to propaganda of all sorts.

Using examples from a daily newspaper, Bernays explains how propaganda works in the mainstream media. Anything stated as true by an authority, such as the State Department, is taken as such. Here Bernays gives us a definition of propaganda: “Modern propaganda is a consistent, enduring effort to create or shape events to influence the relations of the public to an enterprise, idea or group.”

In practice, very little is done nowadays without some kind of propaganda campaign alongside it. Propaganda regiments the public mind every bit as much as the Army regiments the bodies of its soldiers. A group so regimented can be every bit as effective as an army.

Today, the approval of the public is necessary for any large undertaking. Therefore, propaganda is necessary for any large undertaking. Formerly, rulers could set the course of history simply by doing things. Today, the masses have control, so propaganda is needed to wrest that control back. As a consequence, propaganda is here to stay.

It was World War I, and the astonishing success of propaganda in that war to manipulate public opinion, that made people aware of what could be done. This was the first time that not only a multimedia approach was made to encourage people to support the national endeavour, but also key men were brought on board in a massive range of industries.

The new propaganda doesn’t just target the individual, but takes into consideration the structure of society and the way that information spreads through it. This is now a feature of society, because new proposals for reform must be clearly articulated before they will be influential. No-one can get anything done anymore without propaganda.

Bernays concludes this chapter by noting that “In the active proselytizing minorities in whom selfish interests and public interests coincide lie the progress and development of America.” The world is controlled by the small number of men that control propaganda, who make the rest of us think as they will, and society only progresses when their will is in accord with the collective good.


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VJMP Reads: Edward Bernays’s Propaganda I

Fittingly, the Propaganda Ministry turns its attention to the granddaddy of all propaganda literature, Propaganda by Edward Bernays. This short book was written by Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud, by way of explaining his own prodigious insight into the manipulation of mass consciousness in the America of 1928.

He opens in the first chapter, “Organising Chaos”, with a stark declaration that the “organised habits and opinions” of the masses are formed according to the will of men who effectively form an unseen government. These men mold our minds and our tastes, mostly without us knowing who they even are.

Bernays contends that this is necessary, owing to the confusion ordinarily created by the democratic process, with its hundreds of different candidates. People would become confused if they were expected to understand the inner workings of all the issues that politicians are faced with. Therefore, the media narrows things down to a range that can be grasped.

Likewise, Bernays claims that society consents to have its choices relating to commercial products narrowed down by way of media propaganda. Because of reasons like these, there is a constant battle going on to capture the minds of individual people.

Bernays mentions that it may have been better to have had committees of wise men, who made decisions about the best way to do things. But we elected for the opposite of this. We have free competition of ideas, and in order for this to not lead to chaos we have to allow for leadership and propaganda to direct attention. This can be misused, but it is necessary nevertheless.

The advent of mass media has changed the way that the world is organised. At the time of the writing of the American Constitution, the village was the basic unit of society. Thanks to the mass media, it has become possible to be organised alongside people who live thousands of miles away.

Our society, instead of being divided by coherent geographical units, is now cleaved by all manner of social, political, ethnic, religious, racial or moral divisions. It is along the lines of these divisions that propaganda is spread. One influential group leader in any of these domains can soon have all the others in that domain following an idea.

Bernays labours the point that these cleavages are nonetheless comprised of individuals who exist in several groups, and therefore these groups are all interlaced. This is, in Bernays’s view, what society is. It is how democracy has chosen to simplify its decision making.

He summarises the book in the final paragraph of the first chapter. It is to explain how the minds of people are molded in modern democratic society, and how the manipulators of it go about their work.


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VJMP Reads: Ted Kaczynski’s Unabomber Manifesto VII (fin)

This reading carries on from here.

The next chapter in Industrial Society and Its Future is ‘Two Kinds of Technology’. Here Kaczynski works to counter the argument that technological progress is so inevitable that revolutionary efforts are futile.

First, Kaczynski distinguishes between two different scales of technology. Small-scale technology is different to organised-scale technology. The former is technology that can be used by communities without outside help, such as simple crafting or metalsmithing. This kind of technology can survive a collapse of the industrial system, unlike (e.g.) refrigerator manufacturing.

Because organised-scale technology is dependent on other organised-scale technology, any collapse of the industrial system would take centuries to rebuild, if it ever happened. In any case, there’s no guarantee that a medieval society would even develop an industrial system again. It didn’t happen in India, China or the Middle East. It is therefore still worth opposing organised-scale technology, even if opposing small-scale technology is meaningless.

The final section in this manifesto is titled ‘The Danger of Leftism’. Kaczynski exhorts anti-technology revolutionaries to take a resolutely anti-left stance from the beginning, otherwise they will get co-opted. Leftism is incompatible with freedom, because it is collectivist and seeks to bind the entire world into a single whole. Because collectivism is only possible with technology, leftists will never really support it.

Some leftists claim to oppose technology, but they only do so as long as that technology and the system is in the hands of non-leftists. Much like censorship and academic freedom, whether or not leftists support it depends on whether or not they are in charge. They cannot be trusted because they will double-cross anyone they work with.

For many people, leftism fills the same psychological niche filled by religion. The leftist needs to believe in it. Kaczynski notes here that leftists are driven by a compulsion to impose their beliefs onto everyone. “Everything contrary to leftist beliefs represents Sin.”

Leftists seek power through identification with a social movement; helping that movement attain its goals helps satisfy that leftist’s power process. However, the desires of the leftist are infinite. They are not satisfied with anything; they demand total control. “…as long as anyone harbors in some corner of his mind a negative attitude toward some minority, the leftist has to re-educated him. And ethnic minorities are not enough; no one can be allowed to have a negative attitude toward homosexuals, disabled people, fat people, old people, ugly people, and on and on and on…”

The leftists will never stop until they have complete control. Even if you gave them everything they wanted, they would soon want more. Ultimately the leftist is not motivated by good, but by the desire to fulfill their will to power by imposing it on society. Most leftists are driven heavily by the desire to impose their own morality on everyone else. Individual tendencies towards liberty don’t change this general trend.

Identifying the leftist is not difficult. They inevitably identify with the victim, and with the collective. They tend to be against individualism, competition and violence, although they readily find excuses for violent leftists. “Maybe the best diagnostic trait of the leftist is his tendency to sympathize with the following movements: feminism, gay rights, ethnic rights, disability rights, animal rights, political correctness.” (a previous article here would describe them as horizontalists.

The manifesto ends with a number of footnotes; there is no conclusion or summary. The reader is left with the feeling that Kaczynski was an extremely intelligent man who saw very deeply into the nature of reality, but who was not necessarily able to pull everything he knew into a coherent worldview, perhaps on account of some psychological disturbance.

This may have been a result of Kaczynski’s apparent lack of spiritual belief. Many of the problems he attributes to the techno-industrial system could just as well be argued to be problems with materialism. Yet, the absence of spiritual knowledge and the consequences of this are not addressed by Kaczynski. It could be said that Kaczynski, despite his immense insight, was fighting his own shadow to a large extent, in the form of materialism.


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A Brief History of Modern Racism

I remember the first time I got called a racist. I was 17 years old, and was in my first year of university, involved in a philosophical discussion. Someone had claimed that the word ‘Islam’ means ‘peace’, and I had countered that it really means ‘submission’, only to be told that this was a misconception that I had to be racist to believe. In the 20 years since then, as this essay will examine, our conception of what racism is has only become more ridiculous.

Racism originally started out as a reaction to the racial supremacist sentiments that were blamed, in English-speaking popular culture, for World War II. As the story goes, the evil dictator Adolf Hitler stirred up such latent sentiments among German speakers, which lead to an attempt to invade Eastern Europe for the purposes of securing lebensraum for the overflow of Germans. This led to the deaths of some thirty million people, and all because of racism.

Quite reasonably, there developed a movement within postwar popular culture to reject racist sentiments, so that the causes of World War II would not cause another great conflagration. The problem, as with so much of popular culture, is that things went too far. Far, far too far.

Once upon a time, in order to be called a racist you had to display racial prejudice that harmed someone. A racist would be someone who called a black man a “nigger” in public, or someone who refused to hire the best-qualified applicant on the grounds that he was Asian. An example of something that was racist would be going around your neighbourhood beating up Aborigines. Choosing to hold an unfashionable political opinion was not racist, as this was just a thought, and thoughts weren’t crimes once.

Now, if a person doesn’t actively hate the white race and wish for its destruction, that person is considered some kind of white supremacist. The ‘It’s Okay To Be White’ campaign revealed that, in the minds of many people, a refusal to feel guilt on account of being white is tantamount to support for white supremacy. You can now be racist merely for a refusal to be ashamed for being white.

In modern times, our conception of racism has evolved, and well beyond any directive to treat different races on equal terms. The white man is perfectly evil – if you think that there’s a semblance of good in him, you’re a racist. All men of other races are perfectly innocent – if you think there’s a semblance of malice in them that did not arise as a result of their oppression at the hands of white people, you’re a racist. This is the new dogma – question it at your peril.

All economic and social advantages that the white man possesses can be attributed to his ruthless oppression of coloured people and the theft of their natural birthright, but curiously this does not apply to Jews. Despite being much wealthier than the average white person (at least in America), Jews did not achieve their position by any immoral means, but only by diligent and intelligent application of effort.

It is never explained why the white man can not have become rich by the same application of effort as the Jew, it’s just assumed that the white man became rich through crime, while the Jew – who is far wealthier – did so through honest hard work.

Similarly, an attempt has been made to redefine racism as “prejudice + power”, implying that black people cannot be racist against white people on account of that black people do not possess institutional power with which to oppress white people. But, as above, white people do not possess institutional power with which to oppress Jews, yet white people are accused of anti-Jewish racism all the time.

Believing in science is now racist if science suggests facts that are in any way unflattering to a coloured person. It’s not even okay to suggest that different groups of people evolved to meet the survival challenges of different environments, unless of course all non-white people evolved to be superior to whites (there is no way in which white people could have evolved to be superior over anyone else). The idea that the different challenges of different environments led to different intelligences is right out.

It can be seen from the examples above that much of what passes for modern racism is really an anti-white sentiment, either self-hatred projected outwards (as in the case of the social justice warrior) or simple hatred born of envy and fear (as in the case of most coloured people). This explains why accusations of racism are often made in situations where they make no logical sense, the most common example today being getting called racist for expressing a dislike of Islam.

The truth, of course, is that most of this racism hysteria is part of what is known as “call-out culture” – in other words, it’s mostly a way for bourgeois white people to one-up each other, gaining social capital at the expense of their fellows. The modern concept of racism has, therefore, lost all contact with its roots as a way of reducing suffering from racial prejudice. It’s now just a fashion, displayed as shamelessly as any other.


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VJMP Reads: Ted Kaczynski’s Unabomber Manifesto V

This reading carries on from here.

The next chapter in Industrial Society and Its Future is ‘Control of Human Behaviour’. Having established that invasive control of human behaviour was inevitable given a high enough level of technology within a society, Kaczynski now turns to the question of how that behaviour is controlled.

Pressures to control human behaviour have arisen from the beginning of civilisation. When civilisations try to control people so tightly that those people go beyond the limits of their endurance and collapse, then that society will also collapse. Human nature therefore limited the development of human society, but technology threatens to change this by making it possible to change humans.

The passage “Imagine a society that subjects people to conditions that make them terribly unhappy, then gives them drugs to take away their unhappiness. Science fiction?” reads as extremely prescient for 1995. Kaczynski was writing at the start of the Prozac wave, but the trend has worsened severely, with as many as a quarter of some populations on a psychiatric drug at any one point in time. It can be said, therefore, that he predicted the current state of widespread dismay and despair.

Psychiatric drugs are not so much medicines as they are ways of postponing the collapse of society. “In effect, antidepressants are a means of modifying an individual’s internal state in such a way as to enable him to tolerate social conditions that he would otherwise find intolerable.” With a strong sense of irony, Kaczynski notes that the system is often doing the individual a favour when it brainwashes him into submission, because the alternative is destruction. Likewise, the definition of “child abuse” changes depending on which childrearing techniques produce results the system wants, and which do not.

The social disruption we see today is the result of what the system has done to people. This can lead to a totalitarianism that arrives after a number of steps, each one an apparently necessary reaction to a social problem, often with a humanitarian justification. We will probably have to contend with widespread genetic engineering for this reason. The system tends to regard as a “sickness” any mode of behaviour that is inconvenient for it, and therefore that manipulating people to fit in is a “cure”.

In ‘Human Race At A Crossroads’, Kaczynski points out that the system is not in control over everyone. Although it has total control over those who could be termed ‘bourgeois’, there are still many different kinds of disaffected rebel groups. The main concern of the system is to make these people docile so that they can no longer threaten. With this achieved, technology can then expand to take over everything on Earth. Human resistance will be impotent.

A total collapse of the technological system would give humanity the chance to start again. Kaczynski concludes that those who hate the industrial-technological system have two major duties: the first to increase the stresses within the technological system so as to hasten its collapse, the second to develop an alternative ideology that can serve to order a new world when it does.

The last chapter in this section is ‘Human Suffering’. Kaczynski was able to note, even in 1995, that the world’s population has become overblown on account of the technological system, and a collapse of the system would shortly be followed by a collapse in that population. This might entail much suffering in the short term, but this is less than the suffering that would arise if the system was allowed to grow even bigger. In any case, some consider dignity and freedom more important than merely avoiding suffering.

It is far from clear that the collapse of the industrial system would lead to less suffering anyway. Technology has meant that natural controls on population have been removed, which has resulted in a population explosion and all the suffering ensuing from that. Our relationship to Nature has been destroyed, and this is before we account for the effects of future problems like climate change.

Technophiles are unwilling to admit that when a technology comes and makes great changes to a society, this results in many other changes further down the line. For instance, agricultural advances that solve the problem of poverty merely lead to overpopulation, which leads to new problems of stress and aggression. This is an easily predictable problem, and there are many, many others that are not as predictable.


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VJMP Reads: Ted Kaczynski’s Unabomber Manifesto IV

This reading carries on from here.

The next chapter in Industrial Society and Its Future is ‘Restriction of Freedom is Unavoidable in Industrial Society’. Here Kaczynski expounds at length what appears to be the central thesis of the manifesto.

Modern man is strapped down by a number of rules and regulations that have been laid down on him by faceless people far away and who he cannot hope to influence. Kaczynski contends that this is not because bureaucrats are malicious or because the system is yet to be perfected – this is the nature of technological society. Generally speaking, our lives have to be closely regulated by large organisations in order for society to function. Human lives have to be modified to fit the system.

This close regulation happens even to children. The system needs people educated in a particular manner in order to run its machines, and so children have to be forced to study things that they don’t really care about. This social pressure creates a lot of dysfunction in the form of dropouts and mentally ill people. The system uses propaganda to try to induce people to want what the system is doing to them. This is a complicated and dishonest process.

In ‘The Bad Parts of Technology Cannot Be Separated From the Good Parts’ Kaczynski argues that technology is a double-edged sword. Not only does advanced medical treatment require an entire industrial society to maintain, but it also removes the natural selection pressure that is, in many ways, keeping the human race healthy. The only solution to this is either eugenics or massive genetic engineering. Kaczynski contends that this genetic engineering is inevitable owing to the good things it promises.

The next chapter is ‘Technology is a More Powerful Social Force Than the Aspiration For Freedom’. Freedom is continually forced to compromise to technology, and after many repeated instances of this, all freedom is gone. The motor vehicle is a great example: when first introduced, they took no freedom away from the walking man, but society has been forced to adapt to accommodate them, and now walking in many places is impossible. Moreover, regulations such as driver’s licences and insurance have tied people down.

New technology changes society in a way that people are forced to use it. Each new advance, taken by itself, is desirable, but the cumulative effect is to lose freedom to people far away. Technology always advances, but can never be rolled back without a collapse of the system. This means that reform is impossible, which in turn means that any resisters effectively have to be revolutionaries. History shows that social arrangements are temporary, but technological advances are more or less permanent.

The last two chapters in this section are ‘Simpler Social Problems Have Proved Intractable’ and ‘Revolution is Easier than Reform’. These contain a summary of the main statements made so far. Humans have proven themselves incapable of dealing with much easier problems than resisting technology, and therefore cannot succeed without a revolution that destroys the entire industrial system. Kaczynski points out here that we have already left massive environmental problems to our grandchildren merely for the sake of convenience now.

Revolution will not be as difficult as it seems, because the prospect of revolution is capable of inspiring powerful emotions in people. By contrast, the prospect of reform can only inspire lukewarm emotions at best. It is not necessary for a majority of people to become revolutionaries, just enough so that the system is incapacitated.


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VJMP Reads: Ted Kaczynski’s Unabomber Manifesto III

This reading carries on from here.

The next chapter in Industrial Society and Its Future is ‘How Some People Adjust’, namely, how people adjust to industrial society.

The first thing that Kaczynski points out is that people naturally differ with regards to their drive for power. They also vary with regards to susceptibility to marketing and advertising techniques. These people can never be satisfied, because they will always want something else. These desires add to the collective frustration. Adding to this frustration are the wide range of instincts that our oversocialisation causes us to repress.

Other people adjust by joining a political organisation and adopting its goals, because they find satisfaction when some of those goals are achieved. By this method can their desire to partake in the power process be satisfied. Many people experience the power process vicariously through the actions of these larger political movements. On top of this are a variety of surrogate activities, but for the majority of people the desire to experience power goes unfulfilled.

In a section on ‘The Motives of Scientists’, Kaczynski dismisses the idea that scientists are driven by curiosity. Neither are they driven to benefit humanity necessarily, because some subjects (archaeology and comparative linguistics given as examples) are of no benefit to humanity at all. In reality, most scientists are simply motivated by going through the power process by way of scientific endeavour as a surrogate activity. As a result, science itself has become like a destructive juggernaut.

In ‘The Nature of Freedom’, Kaczynski defines freedom as the ability to participate in the power process to achieve real (not surrogate) goals, and without supervision or control by any outside agency. “Freedom means having power; not the power to control other people but the power to control the circumstances of one’s own life.” One does not have freedom if another entity has power over one – having permission to do something is not the same as having the freedom to do it.

We don’t actually have much freedom, because in practice freedom is a function of the economic and technological structure of a society, and not by its laws. A lack of technology makes people more free, because it makes it more difficult for the ruler to enact their will. The press is not freeing because it is tied to major media enterprises, who dominate the informational space through sheer volume. Frighteningly, our freedom is restricted, to a large part, on controls that work on our subconscious.

Kaczynski lays out some of his theory in ‘Some Principles of History’. He considers history to be a function of two subfunctions, one which is erratic and almost random, the other composed of long-term trends. Here he is concerned with the long-term trends. Outlining five basic principles of history, Kaczynski asserts that any chance large enough to change a long-term trend will also change the nature of society, and in unpredictable ways.

New societies cannot just be laid out on paper and expected to function. This is because they are too complex. The economy, the environment and human behaviour are all interdependent, and changes to any one will create changes in the others. Relating to this is the principle that people do not choose the nature of their own societies – this is something that evolves over time, and is not under rational human control.

This is the theoretical basis for his contention that industrial society inevitably will take away more and more of our freedoms. This is the argument in ‘Industrial-Technological Society Cannot Be Reformed’. Resistance is futile – as long as the general trend is towards more technology, the general trend will be towards less freedom. The sentence “It seems highly improbable that any way of changing society could be found that would reconcile freedom with modern technology,” suggests that Kaczynski saw us on a crash course with a technodystopia.


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Bob McCoskrie Is An Absolute Fuckwit

Giving Bob McCoskrie a national platform to rant about “dope” and “Big Marijuana” is like giving your granddad a national platform to rant about Islanders after he’s had a few sherries on Boxing Day. Stuff did it anyway. This column will have a look at McCoskrie’s screed of fuckwittery, with the intent of responding to his shamelessly dishonest rhetoric with some facts.

One can guess from the title of the article (“Legalised dope is a licence for Big Marijuana to exploit young people”) that it is going to be crudely dismissive of the wishes of the New Zealand cannabis community. To have an article with the word “dope” in the headline is like publishing an anti-immigration opinion piece that had the word “niggers” in the headline. He has blatantly chosen the most inflammatory possible term to describe cannabis, one that associates cannabis use with brain damage.

In this piece, McCoskrie recounts his observations from a recent trip to Colorado, one that he undertook to “see first-hand the effects of legalising marijuana”.

His second paragraph mentions “a money-making industry of lobbyists and special interest groups putting profits over evidence-based policy protecting public health and safety, and ready to flout and challenge any regulations,” with the implication that this describes the industrial cannabis lobby, but this description more aptly fits the alcohol and timber industry lobbyists who agitated to make cannabis illegal in the first place.

McCoskrie gets hysterical about the high THC content of the cannabis products he spies in the Colorado “dope shops”, but the facts are that a high THC product actually makes the product safer. Like the fuckwit he is, McCoskrie is thinking about THC as if it was alcohol, so that a high-THC cannabis edible is somehow functionally equivalent to an absinthe or similar.

No-one has ever died of a THC overdose, so comparing it to high-proof alcohol is nonsense. Unlike alcohol, which kills people in New Zealand every weekend, cannabis doesn’t kill anyone. The most dangerous thing about cannabis is probably the long-term effects of regularly smoking it – and these are completely avoided by the edibles and vaporises that McCoskrie rants about. In other words, what he is railing against are the signs of people using cannabis more safely and responsibly to minimise harm.

Some of the paragraphs in this article are “Old man yells at cloud” level, and the reader can’t help but to wonder if McCoskrie has some kind of senile dementia that has caused him to see things that aren’t there. He decries people in Colorado “popping a handful of Gummi Bears containing 10 times the legal limit of THC per serving,” but there is no legal limit of THC per serving, any more than there is a legal limit of caffeine per serving. The sentence is simply nonsense.

McCoskrie is so hysterical that at some points in his screed he becomes completely detached from reality. The worst example is when he cites the existence of cannabis suppositories as proof that cannabis producers are deliberately targeting their product at the young. In fact, the vast majority of people who use cannabis suppositories are elderly ones who cannot use other route of administration because of the complications of old age. Perhaps McCoskrie should have tried a few while he was over there?

It’s noteworthy that at no point in his travels through Colorado did McCoskrie see anything untoward happen on account of cannabis legalisation. He talks about the terrible panoply of cannabis-related products as if it were Weimar Republic pimps selling children on a Berlin street, but can’t recall seeing any notable level of crime in Colorado or any homelessness in the streets, or any sign of social decay. This is striking, considering that the state legalised cannabis four years ago, which is easily enough time for anything of that nature to have occurred. McCoskrie is just a wowser.

No anti-cannabis rant would be complete without employing the slippery slope fallacy, and McCoskrie duly gives us the line “they will want legalisation not just of this drug but all drugs – cocaine, heroin, P”. By this he somehow draws a connection between people who want access to medicinal cannabis and people who go on methamphetamine benders, when the two people could hardly be more different.

It’s exactly this kind of rhetoric conflating people who need medicinal cannabis with reckless criminals that fuels the War on Drugs, which means that McCoskrie must share some blame for the suffering caused by cannabis prohibition. It’s because of people like him that people like Helen Kelly have to suffer needlessly as they die.

Predictably, McCoskrie gets savaged in the comments below the article. What he is writing might have been considered mainstream conservatism 40 years ago, but now it goes down about as well as other conservative ideas from 40 years ago, like whipping up hysteria about white people and Maoris sleeping with each other. It’s apparent from reading this article that McCoskrie doesn’t have the faintest idea what he’s talking about, and is panicking for no good reason.

The only thing this piece can be compared to is a sermon by a Third World religious fundamentalist, who has travelled to the West and seen dancing and intermingling between unmarried youths and shit their pants. McCoskrie is a religious fundamentalist – his Family First lobby group want to recriminalise prostitution and further restrict alcohol. Essentially, they are theocrats, and McCoskrie wants to prohibit cannabis for the same reason that the rulers of places like Iran and Saudi Arabia do.


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The Case For Cannabis: Cannabis Is Not A Gateway Drug

A common argument for cannabis prohibition asserts that cannabis is a gateway drug, in that using it inevitably leads people to using harder and harder drugs. The idea is that we need to keep cannabis illegal so as to keep people off the pathway that leads people onto truly destructive substances. As this article will examine, there is a modicum of truth to the gateway effect, but not in the way it’s usually presented.

The usual way that the gateway drug theory is portrayed is as follows. An individual tries cannabis for the first time, and experiences a cannabis high. This is a pleasurable sense of peace and euphoria that the user decides they want to have again. So they try cannabis again, and have a good time again. So they use it some more, and soon find that they need more and more of it to get the same level of hit.

Eventually the user is addicted to cannabis. After a while, cannabis is no longer able to do the job. At this point the drug user naturally comes to seek out harder drugs, such as methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin, in the hope of getting a chance to relive the original amazing high that cannabis gave them. For some reason, the idea that cannabis use leads to heroin use is particularly prevalent in some circles, especially among the elderly (which reveals that the genesis of the gateway drug theory is in old-fashioned superstition).

The logic is that cannabis prohibition should prevent people from getting exposed to that initial cannabis high, by way of making the substance harder to get hold of. The harder it is to get hold of, the fewer people get addicted, and so the fewer people who seek out really hard and destructive drugs. Therefore, cannabis prohibition protects people from the harmful effects of, for example, methamphetamine or heroin addiction.

The reality is that the gateway effect is a phenomenon that is caused entirely by cannabis prohibition, and which would mostly disappear if there was cannabis law reform, except for in the case of people who have a deathwish.

Many drugs are illegal. Of those, cannabis is particularly badly suited to serving as a contraband substance. It has a strong smell, is bulky and doesn’t generate much raw profit if one considers how much time and expense goes into cultivating, transporting and storing it. Most other contraband substances are much easier to deal with and more profitable, especially those of the powdery kind.

For this reason, many unscrupulous cannabis dealers use cannabis as a kind of lure, by which customers can be induced to buy more profitable (and/or addictive) substances. It’s common in New Zealand for cannabis dealers to suddenly “run out” of cannabis when a particular customer comes around, only to offer a hit of methamphetamine by way of compensation. If the customer decides that they do like it (and this is very common), the dealer is right there to sell them a point bag.

When the would-be cannabis user is then hooked on methamphetamine, they are much more profitable than they would have been if the only other option was to sell them an ounce of weed every two weeks or so. A person who is into methamphetamine is able to burn through thousands of dollars in a week. A dealer can potentially make twenty times as much money selling methamphetamine to a person than they could selling cannabis.

So the idea that cannabis is a gateway drug is untrue. There is such a thing as the gateway effect, but this only exists because of prohibition, in particular because of the opportunity that prohibition creates for drug dealers to get naive cannabis-seeking customers hooked on harder drugs. Far from being a gateway drug which leads to people recklessly doing coke, crack, meth, smack and anything else they can find in search of a buzz, cannabis has shown promise as an exit drug for conditions like heroin addiction and even alcoholism.

If cannabis was legal, people who want to use it could simply go to a cannabis cafe or cannabis store, buy their sativa or indica as desired, and then go home without being exposed to methamphetamine or heroin or anything else. A clerk at a cannabis store is no more likely to offer the customers methamphetamine than a bartender would. After all, they already have a steady and secure income through selling a legal drug to a set market, so why would they want to screw that up?

The truth is that cannabis prohibition forces people into the arms of criminals. This is the true causal origin of the gateway effect. Repealing cannabis prohibition would mean that the people who want to buy cannabis don’t need to encounter criminals in order to so, and consequently never get exposed to a dealer offering to sell them a truly destructive drug.


This article is an excerpt from The Case For Cannabis Law Reform, compiled by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.